We’re still dreaming of Nakorn Cafe and Restaurant (now also a guesthouse). The memory of our meals (yes, plural) has us salivating. It’s hands down/fork down, the best place to eat in Champasak. Owned by Lao and Belgian duo One and Jack, there’s a lot of love in every dish—nothing is ordinary, every meal is an opportunity for beautiful presentation and delivering something a bit special. For example, the sensational duck laap (35,000 kip) comes in a heaping portion and unexpectedly with a tasty galangal infused soup. The massaman curry? Scrumptious. And even for breakfast, when we couldn’t find any noodle soup shops open, they made us a terrific bowl from scratch with all the fixings. There is western fare as well; the grilled meat and chips (52,000 kip) seemed like a crowd pleaser. The riverside setting, friendly, helpful service and selection of beer and wine makes this a place you’ll crave returning to again and again. Find this riverside restaurant a kilometre south of the roundabout, a few blocks past Inthira Hotel. It’s worth the pedal in the dark for.
Champasak With Love is a Thai owned joint that boasts one of the best riverside terraces in town as well as some well-priced Thai fare. Shaded by an enormous tree, the wide open deck has a wide open view of the Mekong and is enjoyed by a mix of locals, Lao and Thai tourists and backpackers. Enjoy typical Thai one-plate meals such as red curry stir-fry, pad krapow or omelet with minced pork over rice, all hovering at an affordable 22,000-30,000 kip. Beer is served in a frosty cold glass, the inexpensive coffee comes from a proper machine, the waffles are made fresh in a waffle maker and yes, there’s WiFi.
French-owned Chez Maman handicraft shop does double duty as a cafe. Find the elegantly renovated old house on the main street and have a cup of Lao coffee or tea with a snack as you browse the exquisite collection of textiles, bags and bamboo work from all over Laos.
We simply ran out of time to try everything and we wish we could have fit a few more meals into our bellies because Champasak Flavor caught our eye. The restaurant, set in the garden of Champasak Pottery shop, specialises in authentic Lao food and the menu features classic must-try like Lao sausages, made with pork and usually seasoned with plenty of herbs and garlic, as well as Luang Prabang salad, a French colonial fusion dish. Open for dinner only.
Finally, The Kitchen restaurant on the ground floor of Inthira Champasak has a big menu of generic Asian and Western fare designed to appease to the masses. The restaurant is usually busy as the hotel in popular with mid-range travellers and tour groups and the alfresco tables out front are inviting. Asian dishes like pad thai and stir-fried chicken with ginger are no more than 30,000 kip. Hamburgers, BLT baguettes and pastas are 38,000 kip and up.
Champasak Flavor: Main street, Ban Meuang San. Open Tue-Sun 17:30-21:00. https://www.facebook.com/ChampasakFlavor/.
Champasak With Love: Main street, T: (030) 978 6757; https://www.facebook.com/ChampasakWithLove/.
Chez Maman: Main street, Ban Vat Thong; T: (020) 9115 5545. Open daily 08:00-18:00 (low season 10:00-18:00). https://www.facebook.com/chezmamanlaos
Nakorn Cafe & Restaurant: Main street, Ban Nakhone; T: (030) 947 3107. Open daily 07:30-21:00. https://www.facebook.com/Nakorn-Cafe-Guest-House-and-Restaurant-845364448854976/
The Kitchen: Main street at Inthira Hotel, Ban Vat Amard; T: (031) 511 011. Open daily 07:00-21:00.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.